Sunday, October 6, 2019

Time To Reconsider An Old Idea, A High Peaks Permit System

Credit goes to the Department of Environmental Conservation and its Region 5 facilitators for including a “break-out” session on Permits at its late July High Peaks-Route 73 stakeholder meeting at the Keene Central School. After all, the very word “permit” has been an electrified “third rail” (hazardous, indeed) topic for years.

That was not always the case, however.  In 1978, the first draft of a High Peaks Unit Management Plan included a section on “individual user controls” with eight alternatives along a spectrum ranging from mandatory registration and reservation permit systems, to no controls at all. Alternative C, reservation or permit systems, stated that “through past experience the U.S. Forest Service has found that a permit system is one of the best ways of gathering user information concerning an individual management area.”

The 1978 draft UMP went on to recommend that a “free permit system should be initiated in the eastern High Peaks with no effort to limit numbers of people using the area for at least three years. Data will be analyzed. If at some time in the future it is determined that numbers of people using the area will have to be controlled, even just for certain high use weekends, the mechanism will already be in place to do so.”

Years went by before another draft UMP for the High Peaks emerged, but the pressures on the High Peaks remained high. The 1994 Draft UMP stated that “Wilderness permits are a key management tool for protecting wilderness resources and ensuring high quality visitor experiences.” The 1994 draft required an overnight camping permit for all visitors in the eastern zone of the High Peaks; describe the prerequisites of a permitting or reservation system, and stated that these systems were extensively deployed in the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and other public land agencies in the U.S. and Canada.

This background material and permit requirements were removed when another draft UMP came out in 1996; and it was gone from the final, approved UMP in 1999. Why was all of this background on permits removed? It had nothing to do with who held the Governor’s job, clearly, as the long time span involves six different administrations of both parties.  Primarily, it is due to steep resistance to even robust discussion of permit systems, much less their study and implementation, within parts of the DEC and within parts of organized, outspoken hiking groups. Permits were seen then in DEC Ray Brook and in Albany, as many see them now, as unnecessary, onerous, unworkable and a violation of the principle that wilderness managers should always employ the least intrusive, preferably indirect method for managing wilderness users. And that is a solid, well accepted principle.

The problem is that in other popular, heavily used and impacted Wilderness areas in the country permit systems have proven necessary, workable, useable and, while imperfect, largely successful in reducing damage to wilderness resources and assuring more people of the opportunity to experience solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation. Despite diligent application of indirect methods and many fine educational programs, overuse and degradation of the wilderness character and the wilderness experience in portions of the eastern High Peaks Wilderness existed in the 1970s, persisted in the 1980s and 1990s, subsided briefly, and then grew sharply after 2005. By 2015, hikers registering at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg trailhead into the High Peaks had increased 62% over that decade.  Indirect methods have been very useful and successful, but insufficient. Summit Stewards now are faced with the  nearly impossible task of annually trying to speak to well over 30,000 people annually about how to behave on the fragile alpine summits, not the 9,000 they could manageably interact with in 1990.

The final, approved 1999 High Peaks UMP provides a spare, out of context paragraph with no reference to other permit systems from which to draw lessons at the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, or other places. Nonetheless, it represented a DEC commitment.  It states: “The Department will form a working group in YEAR THREE to develop the structure and implementation process for a camping permit system. The working group will afford opportunity for public input and comment. Final recommendations to the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation will be made no later than YEAR FIVE. The decision to implement a permit system will require an amendment to this plan and will afford opportunity for public review and comment.”

Years THREE and FIVE passed with no action on this management commitment. 20 years further on, no working group has ever been created, no public input and comment opportunities been made available, and no recommendations to the Commissioner ever submitted. 41 years have passed since the 1978 Draft High Peaks UMP first recommended that a permit system be initiated.

So, fast forward to 2019. Again, credit goes to DEC Region 5 for bringing the topic back for stakeholder discussion this past July. What I found hopeful during the Permit break-out group was that DEC staff seemed very aware of other permit systems in place or underway elsewhere in the country. They brought up the U.S. Forest Service plan to significantly expand their pilot permit or limited entry system for the Three Sisters, Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Washington Wilderness areas of Oregon’s Cascade Range. The Salem Statesman-Journal has been reporting on this topic for some time thanks to writer Zach Urness. Urness writes (May 10 2019 edition) that just since 2011, visitors to Three Sisters Wilderness tripled; visitors to Mt. Washington Wilderness rose 119%. That intense increase led the Forest Service to significantly update its pilot permit system dating to 1995. As of 2020, a permit to camp anywhere in these areas, 450,000 acres in all, will be needed. A day hiking permit will also be required to hike from the most popular 19 trailheads.  For each trailhead, a quota of daily permits for day use and overnight camping will be established and a fee will be charged of about $6. Permits will be issued online, but a certain number of permits will be held back each day for same-day or next-day use. Urness writes (Salem Statesman-Journal, 5/10/19) that:

“The decision, which has come together over the past two and a half years, is a more scaled-back version of an earlier plan issued this year.

“The final version limits day-hikes on the 19 most popular trails, in contrast from the originally planned 30.  ‘As we went through the public meetings, the thing we heard consistently was that folks only wanted us to focus on the most high use areas now and then adjust in the future,’ said Matt Peterson, who led the project for the Forest Service.

“Even so, the plan represents one of the nation’s largest efforts to conserve land from overcrowding by limiting access. While many wild places across the West limit overnight use, few also limit day-use.”

Urness’ article goes on to quote the Forest Service that further adjustments to this “Limited Entry” permit system are inevitable, but stresses that such systems work. He cites early pilot permit systems for popular trails in the Three Sisters and Mt. Jefferson Wilderness areas: “Both places were becoming crowded and struggling with overuse in the early 1990s. But after the permit system, both have stabilized, seeing recovering forest, more wildlife and more solitude,” writes Urness.

Maine’s Baxter State Park also came up in conversation during the DEC break-out session on permits. I recall many visits I once made to Baxter’s Mt. Katahdin or to lesser peaks in that 220,000-acre wilderness. Parking permits for day-use and overnight camping permits have been required for decades. Reservations can be made online, by mail, or by phone. While the process requires advance preparation, it is not onerous. It is very true that Baxter has very few entry points, making peripheral control of recreational users much easier than it would be for the High Peaks. But the rationale for the system Baxter employs should be the same for us in the High Peaks. To the question “why do we do this,” Baxter State Park staff responds:  “we limit access to Katahdin to preserve the fragile alpine ecosystem and your experience as a visitor.  Remember, as trustees of Governor Baxter’s deeds, we are charged with doing this in perpetuity, which is a very long time.”

We have our own fragile alpine ecosystem, and a state constitution envied by all other states mandating that these lands “shall be forever kept as wild forest lands.”  Our NYS DEC are the trustees of New York’s Article XIV, forever wild, and (with the APA) of the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan. The Master Plan anticipates adoption of limits “by permit or other appropriate means of the total number of persons permitted to have access to or remain in a wilderness area or portion thereof during a specified period.”  DEC staff are as knowledgeable and as competent to undertake this significant challenge as any in the USDA Forest Service or any at Baxter State Park. It’s time to undertake a well-informed pilot permit or limited entry system as part of a comprehensive management approach discussed at the Keene Valley meeting.

Photo of High Peaks and Marcy.

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Dave Gibson, who writes about issues of wilderness, wild lands, public policy, and more, has been involved in Adirondack conservation for over 30 years as executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks and currently as managing partner with Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve

During Dave's tenure at the Association, the organization completed the Center for the Forest Preserve including the Adirondack Research Library at Paul Schaefer’s home. The library has the finest Adirondack collection outside the Blue Line, specializing in Adirondack conservation and recreation history.

Currently, Dave is managing partner in the nonprofit organization launched in 2010, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve.




47 Responses

  1. Jim Fox says:

    Do it! Sensible preparation for a hike in the High Peaks cannot be an impulsive seat-of-the-pants venture. Permits as part of that preparation makes common sense.

    • Ray says:

      Yes it is a seat of the pants venture…doesn’t mean you have to be unprepared my pack is always ready… but this state with another fee another BS reservation system …what like Reserve America the failed BS that your forced to use now.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      Ha! Serious preparation to jog a peak or stroll into Rocy Falls for a dip?

      What are you, an engineer, a clubie, or just fearful?

    • John Sasso says:

      A permit system in no way guarantees that hikers with a permit will be prepared and conduct themselves in a proper manner. There are hunters with hunting permits who abuse the system. Same with fishing, and so on…

  2. Trailogre says:

    No need for permits

    Just close all roadside parking
    Have 2 or 3 parking lots in Keene and lake placid
    with buses maybe

    People can walk that extra distance easily enough….

  3. Steve B. says:

    The DEC already has a permit system in place at a number of large DEC controlled state owned properties in Suffolk County, Long Island, that allows for information to be developed as to numbers of users and type of activities. As a mt. biker, I am required to option (free) and carry a permit as well as have one displayed in the vehicle if parked on one of the properties. It’s about as simple a system as can be, an online registration, no approval needed, simply print and carry. There are fines that can be levied (and have been) for not following some simple rules, but really, it’s so easy.

    There is really no burden to the user and allows the state to best manage the lands.

    With a system in place, the DEC could readily and should enact a system to limit overuse. It’s a concept that should have been enacted 40 years ago.

  4. ROBERT DIMARCO says:

    Put a permit system in place. The first few years will be difficult but I believe it will be like the national park system. If u want to go into the Backcountry you get a permit, period.
    Sorry with over 7 billion in this world we must do something!!

  5. ADK Camper says:

    Im terms of the issues facing the Adirondacks, permits are like sticking a band aid on a gaping wound.

    The majority of hikers have cried for the sensible approach to ASK issues:
    Hire more trail crews to harden trails, add NYS Rangers, make trailhead stewards a paid NYS job and put in some sufficient parking lots and shuttle system.
    If after all of that, there’s still a number of issues then consider permits.
    For now, permits should be seen as a last resort. Not a first punch.

    • Vanessa says:

      I endorse all of the above

    • Mountain Man John says:

      I am a trailhead steward in my 2nd year at Cascade and have done trail work in the Adirondacks since 2011. I agree with your points with the exception that I don’t think its necessary to pay the trailhead stewards. What should be done is expand the Trailhead Steward Program to other major trailheads. the TSP has proven effective at Cascade (something the author, Mr Gibson, should have noted).

  6. Dana says:

    I say institute it on a trial basis, at least for parking spaces. I don’t really see an effective way around it in the EHPW. If nothing else it gives someone from out of town a way to guarantee they will have a parking space when they get here. Tow violators. Hold back a few permits at every location for same-day requests. If it doesn’t work, punt.

  7. Andrew B Detar says:

    It’s folly to think that people will go away. Follow the example set by the white mountains and national parks and harden the trails.

  8. Adam Nichols says:

    Not a good idea. Enforce parking on 73. The tickets will discourage over use. Too not all trailheads in the whites do you need a permit. Lastly the money collected by permits will only into the general fund.

  9. Ray says:

    Wow, imagine that another fee in NYS… will it be just as convenient as Reserve America for camping and just as much of a failure…
    Will it improve parking?? Put in place public restrooms ( tired of seeing a minefield of toilet paper 500 yards in on any given trail)…
    Doubt it.

  10. Lake Champlain says:

    ” It is very true that Baxter has very few entry points, making peripheral control of recreational users much easier than it would be for the High Peaks.”

    This sentence didn’t appear in this well-thought-out article until the second to last paragraph, but to this writer it presents the heart of the matter when it comes to implementing a permit system in the Adirondacks’ heavily-traveled regions. Most national parks and state parks(of a similar nature) have restricted entry points where entrance fees and/or permits can be distributed and monitored. The high peaks region has a few places–think Adirondack Loj, St. Huberts–that could fit that bill but for the most part there are multiple ‘entry points’ that indeed give our beautiful park it’s characterstic ‘choices but also present serious logistical problems to implementing a workable permit system.

    Credit to Mr. Gibson for pointing out other challenges to a permit system, and for using good examples from other parks to make comparisons. I wonder, in addition to the point made earlier, about how you establish the bureaucracy to get this going and make it work. The state has shown, in the face of ever-growing needs for more Rangers for example, to take even the most basic step, namely, increase the number of Rangers, for which there is obviously a glaring need. Where will the money be coming from to establish a permit system and, just as importantly, enforce it?

    But as Gibson pointed out, at least the powers that be(well, some of them) are organizing meetings of the minds to deal with the issue of overuse. And the article is timely as well; if you live in the area, just drive around this Columbus Day weekend and just observe the trailheads to reinforce what you already know. When most of them are filled to overflowing by 7 a.m., even the ‘secondary’ ones, we know we’ve got a problem.

    Thanks for a fine piece by this frequent contributor, and thanks to the commenters as well for their takes on this important issue.

  11. Boreas says:

    While I think hiker permitting per se should be avoided, I am more receptive to parking permits – especially if it can be combined with education. My thought would be to initially institute a FREE (or minimal cost) test parking permit system that would only be for Friday through Sunday year-round. BUT, obtaining the permit would require the applicant to view a short online video outlining safety and LNT principles and to attest that they have viewed it. This education is common with many other parks around the country. Then the applicant would be issued a registrant number for this and all future parking applications (so they wouldn’t need to re-watch the video) and would be displayed from a mirror hanger at the parking lot. The hanger would be better than a sticker because it can be used in multiple vehicles, but only one at a time.

    Especially, the test needs to be monitored closely in order to supply clear data on usage – ie., if it reduces overall numbers or simply shifts lot-usage to mid-week instead. Then the data can be analyzed for effectiveness and expanded, cut back, or discontinued based on data and not emotion.

    ULTIMATELY, DEC needs to clearly define and prioritize the problems and their management of the HPW. Are they trying to minimize total numbers of users, minimize backcountry S&Rs, or are they simply trying to alleviate parking and safety issues? At this point they seem to be using a machine gun to shoot mosquitos.

  12. Michael D'Anniballe says:

    What a terrible concept, pushed only by a local community, constantly torn between taking all of the tourism money they can grab with $20 burgers $8 craft beers and not wanting to share the space with the very people who prop up their economy.

    Perhaps instead of restricting access to the area, you could demand (and lobby for) more funding(that this region deserves and desperately needs) from the state and seek grants from the trove of conservation based non-profit funding organizations to perform necessity maintenance and upgrades to the area.

    But that’s not what you want, is it?

    What you don’t understand is that by limiting access to the most popular area in the daks, you’ll lose those tourist dollars that keep your economy from sinking. And furthermore, you’ll be crying and moaning about your “secret spots” getting over run by people forced into other areas by the permit system, in no time at all.

    And comparing the adirondack park to major mountains in the pacific northwest and Baxter is disingenuous and you know it. There is literally zero comparison, historically, environmentally…. Nothing ties these three areas together.

    As someone from the Hudson Valley who had always felt the glare and disdain from the local community, from servers to bartenders to folks working in outdoor shops and even locals in the trails, I sidestep a lot of the local area when I visit. I bring my own food and drink and supply up in my town before I head up, not because I don’t want to drop cash into your economy, but because the service just about everywhere is rude.

    You don’t do a good job of hiding your feelings for outsiders and this piece is a perfect example of the region’s long held dislike of the “outsiders” who allow your towns to flourish.

    • John says:

      How would they even know where you were from? Do you wear a sign that says you’re from the Hudson Valley? I find your comment hard to believe. I’m from the Catskills, and I’ve literally never, in 30 years, felt that I wasn’t welcome.

      • Zephyr says:

        He wears a button down oxford cloth shirt from Lands End, a Patagonia fleece vest, Orvis corduroy trousers and LL Bean boots all shouting “I am an outdoorsy person!”

    • Boreas says:

      Michael,

      “What you don’t understand is that by limiting access to the most popular area in the daks, you’ll lose those tourist dollars that keep your economy from sinking. And furthermore, you’ll be crying and moaning about your “secret spots” getting over run by people forced into other areas by the permit system, in no time at all.”

      I think you are glimpsing some of the complexity here. We do understand that. And we also know that the HPW is classified as a Wilderness area, not High Intensity. Many of us feel that should change. Most do not. Limiting numbers has always been DEC’s fall-back OPTION to minimize damage and promote a wilderness atmosphere. Unfortunately, everyone looked the other way for decades until usage became the crisis we see now. Do you seriously think no one has considered what these parking enforcements would do? We aren’t stupid. And you must keep in mind that DEC has the ultimate responsibility to CONSERVE the resource, not maximize its usage as local governments may prefer. That is the basis of the entire problem – conservation vs. usage vs. dollars.

      I believe one of two roads will eventually be chosen: 1. Significant restriction of parking to optimal usage of the EHPW that still conserves the resource and experience. 2. Re-classification of much of the EHPW to an Intensive Use classification (or perhaps a new type of classification) which would allow significant re-routing and heavy-duty hardening of most trails to allow significant amounts of usage as we see now, as well as heavy duty maintenance. It is difficult to see any middle-ground that anyone would be happy with.

  13. Paul says:

    I’m happy to spend my money in NH! That the only thing that’s being talked about is taking away parking and instituting a permit system without holding the state responsible for spending the appropriate $$ on needed trail work, rangers and a shuttle system is indefensible! For Pete’s sake they started a much ballyhooed re-route to Cascade last year and now they say it will be 2021! Keep promoting the heck out of the Adirondacks but then have no access when people get there! Local businesses will start to dry up and then they’ll wonder why!

    • Boreas says:

      No argument here! Perhaps these issues should be addressed locally if the state cannot decide their priorities. Everything can’t be a priority at once!

  14. Mike Wazowski says:

    “The problem is that in other popular, heavily used and impacted Wilderness areas in the country permit systems have proven necessary, workable, useable and, while imperfect, largely successful in reducing damage to wilderness resources and assuring more people of the opportunity to experience solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation.”

    I don’t believe that there is a comparable example of a regional permit system being applied to an area as vast as the Adirondacks. In many cases, the permits apply to a single trailhead or destination (e.g., Half Dome). The new Cascade Range system has the potential to be a decent case study. Even there, I suspect that there are far more destinations and points of entry for the High Peaks.

    To me, a permit system feels like a last resort, rather than the first option. It seems to me that there is a lot that could tackled using different parking management techniques, increased investment in the trail system, and bolstering ranger/summit steward presence. To implement a true permit system would require so many resources (staff & other) that it seems crazy that it would be the next step, especially when there are some many potential unintended consequences (e.g. – where will the displaced hikers go? Will the quiet gems of the region start to see more and more traffic as a result?)

    Really, the underlying question is not whether or not a permit system is needed.It’s a much bigger question – who are the Adirondacks for? Are they for the local residents, and should they be charged for hiking in their backyard when they already pay property and sales taxes? Are they for visitors, who’s spending drives the regional economy? Are they for the wild flora and fauna? What is the balance?

    If a permit system is needed to strike a balance between all, then so be it. But let’s not assume it is the default option.

  15. Mountain Man John says:

    As with other articles promoting a permit system, the author fails to explain >>realistically<< how such a system would be enforced. I am certain the author is well-aware that the current force of Forest Rangers, which is woefully understaffed and over-strained, cannot be leveraged for another task – enforcement. Heck, you hardly see Rangers on the trails now because they've essentially become a reactionary force, waiting for the next SAR to occur which often involves multiple Rangers.

    Permit proponents like Mr Gibson are apt to say, "The money from the permit system will pay for more Rangers!" Such an idea is naive and shows a gross lack of understanding of how the politicians in Albany have misused taxpayer dollars. There are many examples of how money intended for some purposes ended up getting put into the General Fund. Furthermore, the State has already misspent a ton of money on projects like the new gateway to the Adirondacks (Frontiertown) as well as that Adirondack rest area in Queensbury off I87, money which could have been used to hire more Rangers.

    Finally, while the ADK Summit Stewards do are great job and are a necessary resource in the High Peaks, it would be nice if Mr Gibson would have acknowledged the Adirondack Forty-Sixer Trailhead Stewards, currently stationed at the trailhead of the busiest High Peak, Cascade. The Trailhead Steward Program should also be recognized as an essential part of educating and informing hikers. Thanks

  16. adkresident says:

    Permits will be great. The requester is cross checked, if they have obtained a permit for the area in the past then they are denied. Only new hikers will be allowed, the person who has hiked the same peak 148 times is the problem.

  17. Vanessa says:

    I do not do social media and am grateful for a space to comment on this issue, as hubby and I are local this weekend, and were hiking Saturday.

    Rt 73 is indeed *out of control* with people parking and doing unsafe things to get to relevant trailheads. I saw cars literally parked to partially obscure the highway lanes. And seeing lots of first timers this year (it appears), folks who aren’t necessarily going to read ahead of time to know rules or regulations.

    So to echo what some other commenters have said – hiker permits alone will not solve this issue by any means. It will deter unhappy folks who get ticketed, but I saw far too many people for even several people working full time just ticketing to handle.

    Infrastructure is the best way to handle this for better or worse. (As in, I get the vibe that locals in Keene may or may not be crazy about their town growing more tourist infrastructure.) More rangers, more robust shuttle system (I love the shuttle!) more education and yes, robust parking enforcement but with a LOT more signage and online adverts like on the lake placid tourist site, I love NY, etc. if the site is a top ten google hit when you’re looking up a trail and that same site is run by a local entity, then the top banner should have klaxon red text warning people of hefty fines if they park their tushies in a highway lane. 😠

    I really love it up here and want to keep the place special and the locals unbothered by tourists.

    If you read to the end of this rant, many kudos! Here’s a question – is there a local advocacy group in the Keene & Keene Valley area who is in communication with the DEC? I know that town govt is on the case. Pardon an understatement, but it doesn’t seem like state govt is getting the message…(because ultimately the DEC is the entity with the $$ to solve the issue).

    Thank you again (honestly) for providing a forum for a poor beleaguered-by-crowds hiker to rant 😮

  18. Concerned says:

    A permit system may become an inevitable reality. And I agree with a previous post that to be used as a last resort. But unfortunately the way things are right now with the lack of Rangers there is no way to enforce permitting. Education indeed helps. .. and oh! by the way! the 46ers do a wonderful job at Cascade trailhead every weekend. I will add that the 46ers financially support the Summit Steward program. Busing coupled with something akin to an Uber service should alleviate parking issues. Bussing should pay for itself without a taxpayer burden And the biggest one is Trail hardening. The 46ers donate over a thousand hours every year and we do fantastic work. What can be done to elevate a program such as ours so that we can do so much more? True support from the state may be all it takes.

    • Steve B. says:

      It’s pretty easy to see that the EXISTING permit system the DEC has in place in at least 4 preserves/trail systems on Long Island work and are painless for the user to obtain such permits. They do not at this time limit the numbers of users (easy enough to do on-line or in local outdoor stores), being used exclusively by the state to monitor who is visiting. It has been in use for decades and could be a model for the ADK’s and is likely very inexpensive to get up and running as they have this running currently. They do spot enforcement with a staff that is probably more overworked than in the Adirondacks, yet it’s very effective if the users are aware there can be fines if you are entering a facility with no permit. All it really takes is a Ranger at the parking lot a few times on a busy weekend and the word gets out. The local mt. bike club on Long Island is extremely pro-active in getting the message out to users that there’s a permit system in place, seems the Adirondack Mt. Club and the 46’ers could easily do the same.

  19. Concerned says:

    A permit system may become an inevitable reality. And I agree with a previous post that to be used as a last resort.  But unfortunately the way things are right now with the lack of Rangers there is no way to enforce permitting.  Education indeed helps. .. and oh! by the way! the 46ers do a wonderful job at Cascade trailhead every weekend. I will add that the 46ers financially support the Summit Steward program. Busing coupled with something akin to an Uber service for early late hours should alleviate parking issues. Busing should pay for itself without a taxpayer burden. And the biggest one is Trail Hardening. Seriously needed, but seriously undersupported. The 46ers donate over a thousand hours every year and we do fantastic work. What can be done to elevate a program such as ours so that we can do so much more? True support from the state may be all it takes.

  20. Zephyr says:

    I guess a permit system will work because it will prevent me from adding to the crowds in the High Peaks since 95% of my hikes are spur of the moment, which doesn’t mean unprepared. My pack is always packed and I can be ready to go in ten minutes, which I have often done if the weather looks great and time permits. I’m not going to waste my money on a permit which I will get little use out of, and helps to ruin the wilderness experience. Have avoided Baxter and other reservation areas for the same reasons. Plenty of other places to go without the hassles.

  21. T says:

    Well said Zephyr! Only problem though is if elected officials and the powers that run the Adirondack Park decide this permit idea should cover a majority of the Park. This will be a HUG money maker for the state of New York while exploiting the Park. Can we say ADK tourist trap!!

    • Concerned says:

      I’m not sold on a permit system but one of the factors needs to be that all proceeds must go back into the park such as to pay. for more Rangers and do trial repairs.

      • Mountain Man John says:

        Concerned, I agree in regards to where the proceeds from a permit system should be directed. However, as I noted before, the State has a notorious history of siphoning off funds for worthless, politically-driven projects.

  22. MOFYC says:

    How is this enforced?

    State authorities can’t even accomplish the task of managing parking along Route 73 which, while challenging, is far easier than monitoring, say, 20 key trail heads (with the whopping two forest rangers DEC has for the EHP).

    Institute parking permits for the key trail heads. And significantly fine anyone who parks illegally. Use sheriff and state police to enforce these regulations.

    Those permits should be free (as in Peekamoose Blue Hole), as we want to encourage both exercise and enjoyment of the outdoors.

    Given the location of most trailheads, this will necessarily limit the number of hikers.

    • Zephyr says:

      Exactly MOFYC! The goal of permits is to reduce the number of people using certain trails, and without parking limits that will not happen. Heavily enforce parking and you’re done. Some complain that they don’t have the resources to enforce the parking, but selling and enforcing backcountry permits will be even harder, more manpower-intensive, and more expensive.

      • Boreas says:

        I agree for the most part except the HUGE fact that simply enforcing parking limits does not allow for hikers to plan a visit! I would hate to drive a few hours through the night in order to arrive at a trailhead at or before dawn only to find it already full. I have already informed people of my hiking plans for safety reasons, now all planning is out the window and I have to start blindly driving around to other trails to find an empty spot somewhere. IF I find something, then I have to inform my back-up of my new plans – assuming I have cell coverage. Or just go home. However I do think your plan would work in most places OTHER than the EHPW which is in question.

        • Zephyr says:

          So how is a hiking permit system going to reduce this problem? Without parking enforcement the exact scenario you outline is happening now during busy periods, except you have a pretty good chance of not getting a ticket even if you park illegally and dangerously, as many do.

          • Boreas says:

            Well, you would stand a better chance than you do now! Now it is a free-for-all, first-come-first-served system. You are absolutely right, a permitting system obviously needs to be enforced – it’s major drawback. Violators need to be towed, not just ticketed. State and local governments will obviously need to assure a robust enforcement strategy before instituting such a system. This would likely involve an on-site attendant at every major trailhead. Needless to say, I wouldn’t expect anything to happen soon for that reason alone.

        • John Warren says:

          You could just plan alternatives in the event your first choice is crowded.

          • Zephyr says:

            I suspect a lot of us who know the area already plan around avoidance of busy times and places–at least that’s what I have done for decades. The problems are mostly caused by tourists who plan in advance for their big weekend hike up Marcy or Cascade in the middle of the summer–they won’t be easily deterred after driving hours to get to their chosen trailhead, and a diversion to someplace else might mean a ruined day for them, and possibly not enough time to complete a hike safely.

            • John Warren says:

              It sounds like you’re describing the same people who don’t want to turn around when they should (either running out of daylight, or weather).

              The first of the seven leave no trace principles is “plan ahead and prepare.” It’s hard to have sympathy for those that don’t plan their wilderness hike with the same rigor as they do their drive to the trailhead.

      • Mountain Man John says:

        MOFYC, I concur with stronger enforcement of parking, necessarily ticketing and (worst case) towing. I know that an article recently came out reporting that throngs of people were disregarding the parking restrictions. I say keep up with the parking restrictions and the repercussions, and people will get the message soon. As for planning, there are a number of times I’ve had to make changes to where I hike because the Adk Loj or Ausable lots are full.

  23. Hope says:

    ADK environmental groups should get together with DEC and develop an APP for giving out up to date information on regional weather info, parking and trail conditions.
    Have an opportunity to sign in your group for your proposed hike (just like at the Trail register) and see how many folks have already signed up. Put up a suggested parking area and vehicle limits. Note the recommended carrying capacity of the Trail under current conditions. Note the average time of total route in and out, as well as note a recommended time limit to start by in order to safely exit before sundown. Etc.

    For data and safety purposes you could ask each party to record the time they reached the summit and the time they returned to the trail head.

    A link to DEC, ADK, Adk Council, etc. websites

    Suggested alternative hikes, once carrying capacity has been reached.

    I’m sure others would come up with additional suggestions but even if you start with the basic information so that people can make informed decisions about local conditions before they arrive you would help alleviate some of the crowding.

  24. Todd Eastman says:

    Ban Type A strivers from the Park…

    … always pushing further, chained to set plans, and generally serious…

    … they require rescues, and let their ambitions cloud their judgment, and rarely smile… ban them, then consider permits😊

  25. David Riihimaki says:

    Trails are suffering from a lack of maintenance. They can support more people if we’re willing to take care of them. More money for trail work, more money for education, more money for rangers. And money for more parking, so people don’t have to risk their safety before they get to the trail.

    The state should step up to support the Adks and encourage New Yorkers and others to enjoy the outdoors in a responsible and safe way. We’re bargaining against ourselves to pay for work that isn’t promised and to limit the enjoyment of our greatest attraction.

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